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Origin of the Chaffe/Chaffey Family
Chaffcombe, Chard, Exeter, Berry Pomeroy, Totnes
Newton Abbot, Wolborough, and Buckfastleigh

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"BERRY POMEROY is a small scattered village, two miles E. of Totnes, and has in its parish 4525A. 1R. 10P. of fertile land, several neat houses and scattered farms, and also BRIDGETOWN, which forms a handsome suburb of Totnes, with which it is connected by a good bridge over the Dart. . . . The Duke of Somerset is lord of the two manors and owner of most of the soil. William the Conqueror gave the manor of Bury or Berry to Ralph de Pomerai, who built BERRY POMEROY CASTLE, which for 500 years was the stately residence of the Pomeroys. . . . Berry Pomeroy Church (Virgin Mary,) is an ancient structure, with a tower, and four bells, and contains an elaborate alabaster monument to the memory of Lord Edward Seymour, and his son, and son's wife. . . . The Free Church, at BRIDGETOWN was built in 1835 by the Duke of Somerset, at the cost of £7000, and was intended to be a chapel of ease for that part of the parish which forms a suburb of Totnes, but owing to a dispute with the Bishop was never consecrated. It is now licensed as a nonconformist place of worship, under the ministry of Rev. James Shore, M.A. . . ." [From White's Devonshire Directory (1850)]

Berry Pomeroy was once a prosperous and populous manor at the time of the Domesday survey. Today, the Manor House and Church still lie side by side with the large Tithe Barn still in evidence, reminding us of those far off days when the Church could claim one tenth of the produce. However, the village is not of a compact nature for whilst Church and Manor House are nearby, the famous Castle lies in isolation at some distance. In fact the Parish extended down to the River Dart in Mediaeval times thus incorporating Bridgetown within the boundary of Berry.  Berry_Pomeroy_1890.gif (145949 bytes)
Berry Pomeroy 1890

During its long and romantic history, Berry Pomeroy Castle was occupied by just two families. First the Pomeroys, and then the Seymours, both powerful local families.  Although the great events of English history seem to have passed the castle by, it nonetheless has a colourful history of hauntings, apparitions, kidnappings and dark deeds that survive to this day.

Ralph de Pomeroy was at the Battle of Hastings. His home domain was at La Pommeraie in Bayeux, Normandy. Earthworks of his Castle still remain near Falaise called the Chateau Ganne. He was granted 60 manors by Duke William, many in Devonshire. His chief domain in Devon was at Berry Pomeroy. Joselin Pomeroy succeeded him. Through Henry, his son, they retained their estates in Normandy at the Castle of Pont-Antou.  Either this same Henry, or his son, supported King John of Magna Carta fame and held the Castle Pomeroy at his disposal and garrisoned it. The wealth of the Pomeroy estate was large and in the Exon Domesday he held many livestock in the northern part of the county. In the mid sixteenth century the castle and estates went to the Seymours, Dukes of Somerset and the main line became extinct.  Junior branches were at Ingeston and Sandridge, and in southern Ireland by the Viscounts Harberton.

Berry Pomeroy owes its name to one of the original Norman followers of the Conqueror, Ralph de Pomeroy, who appears in Domesday Book (1086) as lord of 106 manors in the county. Unlike his neighbour, Judhael of Totnes, Ralph did not establish himself on an old site, but went out into the woods and chose himself the most inaccessible spot that he could find, on a lonely knoll above a deep-sunk tributary-brook of the Dart. The ravine of this watercourse protects a good half of the enceinte: the exposed or southern side is covered by the main building of the old castle, a gatehouse of exceptional solidity, from which rise two high hexagonal towers. Above the portcullis-chamber is a fine carved shield with the lion rampant of Pomeroy - a bearing to be seen well displayed on the tombs of the parish church a mile outside the woods. This gatehouse certainly does not belong to Ralph de Pomeroy's original castle, which (presumably) was a scarped and palisaded shell-keep, whose outline would have followed the contour of the summit of the knoll in a somewhat quadrangular fashion. Complete reconstruction in stone no doubt followed in the twelfth century, though most of the present buildings are even later.

The castle itself is two buildings in one. At its centre is a medieval stone mansion house.  This in turn is surrounded by the curtain wall and great gatehouse.  The whole castle is perched precariously on a shelf, halfway down a hillside overlooking the Gatcombe Brook valley. Even if you fail to bump into any of the former owners, you'll find the setting itself a haunting experience. The castle is reputed to be the most haunted castle in England. The story goes that this now ruined castle in Berry Pomeroy, Devon, was home to the De La Pomerai family from 1066 to 1550.  The ghost of a member of the family called Margaret has been seen dressed in white robes.

The legend of Margaret De La Pomerai is a sad tale.  It is thought that she had a wicked sister called Eleanor. Both siblings fell madly in love with the same man, and as Margaret was far more beautiful than her sister, Eleanor was soon overcome with jealousy.  She locked Margaret away in the castle dungeons, and left her to starve to death.  Her spirit has been seen drifting upwards from the site of the castle dungeons to the old ramparts.

The castle and manor of Berry was bestowed upon ralf de Pomerai by William the Conqueror as a reward for his help at the Battle of Hastings.  The Pomeroys were among the most powerful of the early Devonian feudal houses and had the unusual luck of continuing their lineal succession for nearly 500 years. During this time, they never lost their lands for a permanence, though they were more than once in danger of confiscation for treason. Henry de Pomeroy was a resolute supporter of King John Lackland in his rebellion against Richard I. When forced to fly from Berry, he seized the impregnable Cornish rock of Mount St. Michael and held it till all hope was lost. It would appear that he escaped forfeiture by committing suicide. Having assigned his lands to his sons, he had himself been bled to death by his surgeon, in the ancient Roman fashion. Since he had never been tried or condemned, Richard I allowed the Pomeroy lands to escape confiscation. The local legend at Berry - quite unauthentic - gives Henry a still more lurid end. He is said to have blindfolded his horse and then to have ridden him out of the postern straight down the precipitous north side of the castle, ending with a broken neck in the ravine below. Henry's grandson and namesake was deeply concerned in a more justifiable rebellion, having been a follower of Simon de Montfort in the Barons' War. He was lucky enough not to be present at the slaughter of Evesham, profited by the amnesty granted by the "Dictum of Kenilworth" to the surviving Montfortians, and got off with a fine instead of complete forfeiture.

The castle remained in his family until 1548 when it was sold by Thomas Pomeroy to Edward Seymour, brother of Jane Semour who was the third wife of King Henry the VIII. Passing down through the family after the death of of the third Baronet in 1688, it became deserted. The fourth Baronet who was the speaker of the House of Commons, lived in London and had no interest in the castle.

The Pomeroys endured till the convulsions of religious war which marked the earlier years of the reign of King Edward VI. The then head of the house, Sir Thomas Pomeroy, was one of the chief supporters of the old Catholic party in the West. When, therefore, we find him selling his castle to Lord Protector Somerset in the second year of his Protectorate. We are suspicious of undue pressure, or blackmail, on the part of that champion among land-grabbers. A tale is told to the effect that Pomeroy saved his head after the unsuccessful Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, by making over Berry to Somerset. Unfortunately, this cannot be true, since Somerset had been deposed, and was actually confined in the Tower of London (October 1549), before the leaders of the Western Insurrection were tried and executed in January 1550.

Somerset was released and allowed two more years of life before he was attainted and executed by his jealous rival, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. It was during these last years of his life that he made over Berry to his eldest son, Edward Seymour, whom, in other respects, he had disinherited. For, when he caused his own patent for a Dukedom to be drawn up in the first year of his protectorate, it included the astounding clause that his titles should pass to his younger son, the child of his second wife, Anne Stanhope, and not to his elder son, Edward, child of his first wife, Catherine Fillot. Only if all the male issue of the younger line should die out, were the elder line to have a reversionary right of succession.

The elder son, therefore, and his descendants for two hundred years, were lords of Berry Pomeroy and certain other Devonshire lands, and baronets after the time of James I, while the younger family enjoyed the Earldom of Hertford and the restored Duchy of Somerset till 1750. It was this odd fact which gave Sir Edward Seymour, the first prominent Tory to join William of Orange after the landing at Torbay, an opportunity to vent a paradox. "I think, Sir Edward," said the Prince, "that you are of the family of the Duke of Somerset."
"Pardon me, your highness," replied Seymour, "the Duke of Somerset is of my family."

It was the earliest of the Seymour owners of Berry who cleared out part of the interior of the old castle of the Pomeroys. In the centre of the walls, was erected the magnificent Tudor building whose ruins strike the eye of the visitor so much more effectively than the remnants of the old enceinte. It is one of those mansions built for light and convenience with enormous mullioned windows which occupy more than half of its frontage. There are long galleries and spacious reception rooms in which the period 1550-1600 is so rich. Apparently, the interior decorations were elaborate almost to ostentation, mantelpieces of polished marble instead of freestone, fluted Corinthian pillars, cornices of wreathed fruit and flowers highly gilt, ceilings of curiously figured plaster, paneling of precious woods. The building is said to have cost £20,000 - a great sum in Tudor days. "Yet the whole was never brought to completion, for the west side was never begun," says the author of the "Worthies of Devon," himself an eighteenth century vicar of Berry. Here lived five generations of Seymours, knights and after-wards baronets, prominent among the noble families of Devon. But the English Civil War brought harm to Berry, as to so many other ancient castles. The walls were "slighted" and the residence somewhat damaged. It must still have been habitable in 1688, as Sir Edward Seymour (named above) brought William of Orange thither on his march from Torbay to Newton Abbot. But he would seem to have been the last resident and himself spent his later years at, and died in, his manor of Maiden Bradley in Somersetshire. Tradition says that the roofs of Berry were fired by lightning in a storm and that the owner, considering it a rather remote, if splendid, abode, would not go to the expense of reconstruction. Three hundred years of wind and rain have done the rest and the once magnificent building is a picturesque skeleton, showing the sky through mullioned ribs.

In 1750, died the last Seymour Duke of Somerset who sprang from the Lord Protector's younger son. Agreeably to the strange patent of 1547, the representative of the elder line, the Berry Pomeroy Seymours, succeeded to the Duchy, but not to the bulk of the estates, of his predecessor - there was a daughter left as heiress to the lands, if not to the honours of the younger branch. The Seymours never sold or parted with the castle and today it belongs to the 19th Duke of Somerset. It is maintained by English Heritage who have carried out a great deal of restoration work and continue to do so.

There are other ghosts at the castle, including a female spirit who gained great publicity in the 1800s when a famous medic called Sir Walter Farquhar wrote about her in his memoirs. Farquhar believed that the appearance of this white-clad woman was an omen, and that soon after some unfortunate soul would die.

 Totnes is a charming town built steeply above the River Dart. It has been a borough for over 1,000 years. It was one of the oldest strongholds of Norman England. and was part of a network of forts and fortified boroughs designed to defend the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex from the marauding Vikings. Its position, on a hill overlooking a tidal river, with an ancient track crossed by way of a ford, is an archetypal setting for a town and the shape of the original walled settlement, with its long houseplots stretching back from the street to the defenses, can still clearly be perceived, eleven centuries later. The name 'Totnes' means 'the fort or lookout (tot) on the ridge or nose (ness) of land', which perfectly describes the site. Totnes town in Anglo-Saxon days, was the largest place in South Devon, after Exeter. 

The great circular shell-keep of Totnes was built by Judhael the Breton with the leave of William the Conqueror, long before Domesday Book (1086) had been compiled. To him, the King gave a very broad holding in South Devon, 103 manors in all, and Rufus, in return for his fidelity during the baronial revolt of 1193, added the great "Honour" of Barnstaple, forfeited by Robert Mowbray. With the exception of the House of De Redvers, Judhael was, in his later years, the most important landholder in the County of Devon. It was natural, then, that his chief stronghold should be large, as well as strong, and, being of the very earliest Norman type, it was remarkably simple in plan.

Totnes town had been, in Anglo-Saxon days, the largest place in South Devon, after Exeter - it was a mint-town under Kings Aethelred the Unready and Canute. It was built on a conical hill which marks the point where the Dart estuary ceases to be navigable. Judhael occupied the highest corner of the town - its north-western part - and there built a broad oval bailey about 80 yards in diameter. Some two-thirds of its enceinte were protected by the steep slope of the hill, while the other third - that adjoining the town - was cut off by the digging of a deep ditch. On the northern side of the bailey, Judhael threw up an enormous motte with almost precipitous sides and, on top of this, was his inner house of defense. The way up to it was not, as in most mottes, by a straight flight of steps, but by a path cut into the mound and curling round it in circular fashion, so as to be commanded at every part of its ascent from some point of the strong building on the summit.

Presumably both the bailey and inner defences were originally walled with earthwork and palisading alone. But quite early in its history, apparently before 1150, the timber of Totnes was replaced by masonry. The outer wall became a broad stone structure with a rampart walk all around it. The building on the motte was turned into a small shell-keep, some 40 feet in diameter, well furnished with battlements and with a good staircase leading up to them. All the masonry is of small and irregular stones. There is no good ashlar work. A sure sign that the construction was early.

The extraordinary feature of Totnes Castle is that it shows no sign of any building later than the twelfth century. It was apparently never reconstructed by owners of Plantagenet date, either in motte or bailey. There must have been within the enceinte the usual fittings of a medieval castle-hall, chapel, kitchen and so forth; But of what date they were it is not possible to make any conjecture, for not a trace of them is left. The motte and its tower preside in solitary state over a large open grass-plot and the clearance of inner buildings is as complete as at Launceston or Exeter. They existed once, for Leland, visiting the castle in 1540, saw them in decay: "the castle wall and the strong donjon be maintained, but the lodgings be clene in ruins." Of these ruins not a stone is now left.

Considering its size and strength Totnes Castle has little recorded history. Judhael's son was the last male of his line and the "Honour" was cut up. Half seems to have gone to his grandson William de Braose, the other share is found in the hands of Guy de Nonant, whose connection with the original owner is not known - possibly he was only a grantee. The castle, after the male line of Braose died out, went by inheritance through females to the Lords Zouche of Haringworth in 1273. They held it for just two centuries but John, seventh of that line, was a desperate adherent of King Richard III and was attainted and stripped of his lands after Bosworth Field (1485). King Henry VII gave the castle to Richard Edgcumbe of Cotehele, the soundest Lancastrian in Devon or Cornwall, who had suffered many hardships in the days of Yorkist rule and was entitled to lavish compensation. Piers Edgcumbe sold the lordship to Sir Edward Seymour of Berry Pomeroy, his neighbour, from whom it passed to the Dukes of Somerset, when the disinherited elder branch of Seymour obtained the ducal title, on the extinction of the younger and more favoured line. Which of the Seymours made the final clearance of the residential parts of the old fortress is not ascertainable.

The inhabitants of Totnes Castle over the centuries must have been a pretty cowardly lot. It seems that they always preferred to surrender rather than fight, and rarely resisted an attack. As a consequence, Totnes never received the kind of battering usually suffered by castles in the turbulent middle ages, and it remains remarkably intact.  It is one of the largest and most impressive examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle in the country. The beautiful, round shell keep sits on top of a huge mound of pounded earth and rock. Originally, there was a great ditch round it but this is now filled with the cottages and gardens of the town

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Totnes 1890

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devonphot02.jpg (7465 bytes) Newton Abbot is a well known business and commercial centre.  From Roman times, the town developed as two separate centres separated by the River Lemon. These were Newton Bushell and Newton Abbot.  It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that they eventually merged.  Today, Newton Abbot comprises three parishes, Highweek (the original Newton Bushell), Wolborough (the original New Town of the Abbot of Tor), and Milber (which itself has a history dating back to Roman times). 

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Newton Abbot

Until recently Newton Abbot was essentially a Market Town, but the farming ethos is less evident now than even ten years ago.  There have been constructional changes to the traffic flows and significant modernization programs affecting the town centre.  These certainly enhance the appeal of the town, but leave many of the locals dreaming of Newton Abbot as it was.


The first recording of St. Leonard's Tower was in 1350.  The townsfolk of Newton Abbot gathered in 1688 to hear William of Orange declaration war against King James III, The Tower houses 8 bells, the last two being added in 1888, and it also houses the Town's ancient stocks.  The original "Raleigh Door" can be seen at the Town's Museum in St Paul's Road.

Buckfastleigh is surrounded by steep hills, woods and meadows, covering only two square miles. It is probably best known for the Abbey at nearby Buckfast, built on the 12th century foundations of a Cistercian abbey, now famous for its honey and tonic wine. Historical buildings and the ruins of Holy Trinity are a feature of the town.

Buckfastleigh occupies a long valley, where two energetic streams, the Mardle and the Dean Burn, flow into the River Dart. A large limestone hill, contrasting markedly with the gentler landscapes all around, towers above it, and this hill is riddled with caves, in which the bones of animals that roamed the area millions of years ago have been found, making it a site of great scientific importance. Buckfastleigh_1889.gif (213802 bytes)

The town's church was built on top of the hill, reached by a long flight of nearly two hundred steps. The building itself was sadly burnt down in 1992, but the spire remains, visible from many miles away, and the church site is still consecrated. In the churchyard. The town, safely down below the hill and well watered by the two streams, developed during the Middle Ages and was always a centre for the woollen industry. By the mid 19th century it was a roaring mill town, with no less than five woolen mills as well as tanneries, quarries, an iron foundry and a paper mill.

Buckfastleigh grew up alongside the older medieval Buckfast Abbey and has long been associated with Britain's wool industry. The Cistercian and other Orders who controlled the Abbey prior to the Restoration grazed sheep on the Dartmoor Plains, made use of spinners and weavers who had set up looms in the town, and established an early version of the Buckfastleigh market. Largely unaffected by the civil war and its divisive politics, the town's cottage industry continued to expand so that by 1838 Buckfastleigh hosted more than 700 looms (around a quarter of the total number in Devon). According to William White's ‘History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Devonshire 1850', the town also produced ‘great quantities' of cider, and was dominated by a parish church that ‘stands on an eminence ascended by 144 steps' and has a tower that ‘contains six bells'.

As elsewhere in England, Buckfastleigh was eventually affected by the industrial revolution. Its home-based cottage industries were replaced by such large and centralised woollen mills as Town Mill, West Mill and Churchward's Mill (destroyed in a fire in 1906). Artisans began to produce woollen cloth (or serge) in the town's factories rather than in its homes, they worked in the copper and tin mines that were simultaneously being established, or they laboured in the local limestone quarries that provided the basic building materials for the expanding town and surrounding villages. As Buckfastleigh's industry expanded so did its population: from around 1500 in 1800 to a peak of close to 2,800 in 1901 (its population today is around 2,000). The number of public houses in the town also increased to no fewer than sixteen by the mid-1850s. 

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Exeter is an historic Cathedral and University city. The city traces its roots back to the Roman era. Portions of wall they built around the town can still be seen to this day. Following on the heels of the Romans came in succession the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans. Exeter opened it gates to William the Conqueror after an 18 day siege in 1068. Norman influence is evident in the architecture of the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Peter, whose massive twin Norman towers are reminiscent of castle strongholds make it unique it Britain.

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Exeter 1890

Exeter takes its name from the river Exe. The site of the city of Exeter has been inhabited for over 2000 years and it is possible to see traces of every major period of English history in the architecture of the city. Dominating the skyline is the mediaeval Cathedral, an outstanding example of decorated Goth. Mol's Coffee House and the Ship Inn, close to the Cathedral, were favorite haunts of Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. The Royal Clarence Hotel too has had many distinguished guests, including Lord Nelson. Beneath the ground outside the West Front of the Cathedral lie the remains of Exeter's Roman Military Bath House, one of the earliest stone buildings erected by the Romans in the British Isles.

The Roman army reached Exeter around AD 50-55 during the conquest of south western Britain. On a spur overlooking the River Exe a 42 acre legionary fortress was built. This was the base for the 5000 strong Second Augustan Legion. The defenses and buildings of the fortress were constructed almost entirely from timber and clay. A few years later work began to convert the site into a civilian town, known as Isca Dumnoniorum. Its public buildings included a forum and basilica (town hall), a market place and public baths. In about 180-200 the City Wall was built, enclosing 93 acres, a much larger area than that of the fortress and early town. 

Aerial View of CathedralThe Roman town fell into decline in the late 4th century. In the years following the withdrawal of Roman rule in 410 the town continued to decline in population. By the mid 5th century it was probably almost deserted, with most of the houses in ruin and the streets overgrown. The Saxons occupied Exeter from about the middle of the 7th century. Town life revived in late Saxon times, possibly during the reign of Alfred the Great (871-899). At this time the medieval street plan was laid out. The Saxon defenses were strong enough to withstand at least three attacks. The Danish assault of 1001 was rebuffed, whilst that of 1003 was only successful because of the treachery of the town reeve, who opened a gate for the attackers.

Exeter Cathedral was built on the camp of the Roman Army's II Augustan Legion. Archaeological evidence of Christian worship dates from the 5th century. In the Seventh Century, St Boniface the Patron Saint of Germany was educated at a monastery or church adjacent to the Cathedral's present location in 690. In 1050, Bishop Leofric of Crediton saw Exeter as an ideal place to which he might transfer the centre of his Episcopal See. There was a general movement of Saxon Cathedrals into major towns, and the walls of Exeter were furthermore better protection than the fields of Crediton. Leofric converted the minister church into his Cathedral and was personally installed there by King Edward the Confessor and his Queen. 

Orderic Vitalis, in his account of William the Conqueror's siege of Exeter in 1068, described the place as 'a wealthy and ancient city, strongly fortified'. An important Anglo-Saxon city, it was the centre of a major rebellion in the West Country. After 18 days the city capitulated, having obtained a promise from William that the city would not be harmed nor its taxes increased. In 1066 Exeter had about 460 houses and a population of about 2,500. It was a rich trading and manufacturing city; its markets were visited both by foreign merchants and local people. A great new Norman Cathedral was begun in 1114 but only the pair of massive transeptal towers remains today: the rest was reconstructed in late medieval times. 

Exeter's Rougemont Castle was one of the original Royal strongholds set up by William the Conqueror to hold down a large and important town. Rougemont - the Red Hill, as the fortress was now styled - is one of the earliest pieces of Norman building work to survive in the whole country. The most dominant building was this gatehouse - about 30 feet square, with walls six feet thick: it was double, with an inner and an outer door, each formed by a twelve-foot arch. The Norman gatehouse was defended, in 1136, by Baldwin de Redvers. King Stephen tried all the methods of twelfth century siege-craft, escalade, converging discharges of missiles against the ramparts and, finally, mining. The garrison surrendered after three months, because their well had run dry and they were perishing from thirst.

Exeter was a great ecclesiastical centre in the Middle Ages. About one third of the land within the walls was owned by the Church. In addition to the Cathedral, there were 32 parish churches, 7 monasteries and several chapels and hospitals. The Greyfriars first occupied the area now known as Friernhay Green but in about 1290 they moved to a site outside the City Walls, and this area is still called The Friars. By the 14th century Exeter had a population of about 3000, and there were extensive suburbs outside the wall. 

By the first quarter of the sixteenth century Exeter was one of the biggest and richest towns in England. Outside London, only Norwich, York, Bristol and Newcastle were larger. Exeter's prosperity was based on the Devon woolen industry. The cloth was woven in rural Devon, dyed and finished in Exeter and exported to France, Spain and the Netherlands. A quay was constructed in 1564-6, and at the same time the Exeter Canal was built to link the city with the sea, becoming England's first ship canal. This helped rectify its declining trade. The rich merchants dominated city life and their wealth is reflected in the fine stone portico which was added to the Guildhall in 1593, at a cost of £782. In the 1530s Henry VIII dissolved the city's monasteries and there was a riot at St Nicholas Priory. The Roman Catholics rebelled in 1549 when the Devon and Cornish peasantry formed the Prayer Book Rebellion and Exeter was unsuccessfully besieged. The city contributed a large sum of money towards the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada. It is believed that Queen Elizabeth I, in recognition of the gift, suggested that the city's motto should be Semper Fidelis (Ever Faithful). Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake were frequent visitors to the county town. It is claimed that the Ship Inn in Martins Lane was Drake's favorite inn. 

During the Civil War Exeter was Parliamentarian until a siege of 1643 when it was taken by the Royalists who made it their headquarters in the West. Charles I's Queen took refuge in the city, where she gave birth to Princess Henrietta Anne, who was baptized in the Cathedral. The city was again besieged in 1645/6 and finally fell to the Parliamentarians. It remained occupied by the military until the Restoration in 1660 when the citizens gave Charles II a magnificent silver gilt table salt which is now amongst the Crown Jewels. By 1660 the city was recovering from the effects of the Civil War and indeed was entering its most prosperous age. Its mainstay was still the cloth trade but its principal market had shifted from France to Holland. 

Exeter changed considerably during the 18th century. The climate, amenities and scenery of Exeter attracted wealthy families from all over the country at the time when its ancient industries and trades were declining. Exeter had a considerable middle class population with a substantial income to invest. The city began to develop as an administrative, financial and distributive centre. 

In the first half of the 19th century Exeter declined in national importance. In 1800 Exeter had dropped to fourteenth in size amongst provincial towns; by 1860 it was fortieth. However, during the 19th century the population of the city increased from about 20,000 to 50,000. Exeter developed engineering, iron founding, brewing, papermaking and printing industries. The Canal was extended in 1825 and a new basin was opened in 1830, but the canal trade suffered when the railways reached Exeter in the 1840's. 

'We have chosen as targets the most beautiful places in England. Exeter was a jewel. We have destroyed it.' So announced the German radio stations on May 4th 1942. In the moonlight the bombers rained down high explosives and fire bombs for an hour and a half: The Cathedral, though hit in one place, fortunately did not suffer major damage. The upper part of the High Street and South Street and the area from Sidwell Street stretching across to Newtown were almost completely devastated: 400 shops, nearly 150 offices, over 50 warehouses and stores, 36 clubs and pubs were destroyed. Many of Exeter's finest buildings were destroyed including Bedford Circus which had been one of the most impressive examples of unified urban 18th century architecture in England. 

Exeter is the County town of Devon and is a business, legal, retail, tourist and commercial centre for the region. The city has a population of around 111,000 but serves a surrounding area of nearly half a million people.

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Chaffcombe is a small loose knit settlement to the north-east of Chard. Chaffcombe is Saxon for breezy valley and the village name was listed in the Domesday Book commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086. The village is of considerable archaeological and historic interest. This delightfully wooded parish, 'Ceaffa's valley', presumably commemorating the first Saxon settler, stretches across the western slopes of the Windwhistle ridge overlooking Chard. The village enjoys a peaceful, streamside location in a sheltered valley between the A30 and A358. The only major facilities in the settlement are St. Michael's Church and the community hall.  Houses along the village street are mainly 18th and 19th century with modern development filling some of the gaps between. Although agriculture was the chief source of livelihood, there were close links with the cloth making and glovemaking industries based in factories at Chard and Ilminster.

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Chaffcombe 1886
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St. Michael's Church
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Rectory built 1850
Village Centre
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Chaffcombe Gate Farm
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Panorama: left: church, centre: village, right: farm
- viewed from Spray's Hill looking south - 

wpe1.gif (34263 bytes)The Chaffcombe name appears to be famous for its apple pudding: The pudding is made with apple and oranges with oats on top  Indregients: (serves 4) 3 medium cooking apples 1 orange 30 g margarine or butter 30 ml sugar 100 ml oats (uncooked flake oatmeal).  Grate the apple (including the skin, but not the core) and the skin of the orange into an ovenproof dish. Mix in the juice of the orange and half the sugar. (2) Melt the margarine in a saucepan over a low heat and mix in the oats and the rest of the sugar. Stir until thoroughly coated. Spread over the top of the apple mixture. (3) Stand for one hour before cooking for 20-30 minutes at 190 deg. C. Try it with different toppings - crumble or cornflakes for example. Time: 15 minutes preparation, 1 hour standing, 20-30 minutes cooking. 

The first written reference to the Manor of Chard came in 1065 when it was occupied by Bishop Giso of Bath. The name (Cerdren in the document) refers to rough ground and this may have been the large surrounding area of commonland or the abundant local flinty stone (chert), so durable for building but a curse to farming. Giso, a Frenchman from Lorraine, retained Chard Manor when William of Normandy conquered England. It was large estate but not accounted for as a rich manor when surveyed for the Domesday Book of 1086. 

A field survey of March 1985 suggests that the near the town centre of Chaffcombe site is an unusual manorial complex. Consisting of an almost level trapezoidal main enclosure about 0.5m above adjacent land, with slight platform to the north-east corner, defined on the west side by hollow way running down from possible causeway across north ditch. Ditches are substantial 1m, south 2.5m. Drop in level of 1m from west ditch into south. From east angle of moat an embanked leat runs east-north-east along field boundary for ca. 100m to a spring. A hollow way approaches the moat from down slope towards the east end of the south side. From the west angle of moat the south ditch continues west for 15m then bifurcates, a much shallower ditch running west with a possible pond within it, and a 2m deep ditch running south-south-west down a steep slope to the east angle of a rectangular fishpond 40 x 15m, with outlets at its south and west angles. Traces of a second pond to north. The fishpond has a terrace by the side of it and the complex may be a garden feature associated with the house, rather than a fishpond per se.

Chaffcombe Topographical Map

Part of Village Centre

Chard's early medieval economy was largely self sufficient and based on farming. By the 15th. century, much had been converted to excellent sheep pastures. Wool production brought prosperity. Chard wool merchants turned to cloth making and wealth flowed into the town. A great fire of 1577 destroyed much of the town and warehouses but by the end of the century Chard had recovered, many of its houses being called "newly built". By 1800 cloth making in the area was declining. Weavers and their families faced hard times, made worse by the wars with Napoleon. These ended in 1815.

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Chard 1891

The many hilltop beacons in the Chard area tell of the age-old threat posed from the nearby coastline. Defense was long the responsibility of the County forces. When the Civil War started in Somerset in 1642, the stewardship of Chard was in the hands of the actively Royalist Poulett family of Hinton St. George. This, with the proximity of the like-minded Bretts of Whitestaunton, probably restrained attitudes in the town, which might otherwise have been for Parliament. King Charles I briefly stayed in the town in 1644 and his troops were billeted in surrounding villages. At the end of the war, the manor passed briefly to the Governor of Portsmouth, Colonel Whetham who became resident but it was later regained by the Pouletts. Some 20 years later, the Duke of Monmouth claimed the throne and, gathering support, landed at Lyme and marched through Chard on the way to defeat at Sedgemoor. The loss of local lives there and the subsequent retributions, made it a particularly sad time for the area.

In 1821 the industrial revolution came to Chard. The first machine lace factory opened and a new source of employment was available to ex-weavers who, as factory workers, lost much of their independence. The first lace mill was burnt down, was quickly rebuilt. The abundant springs that first attracted early settlers to Chard were ideal as a source of water power for the mills. Later, demands for greater power and longer working time, necessitated the change to steam engines. The gaunt brick buildings and chimneys have dominated Chard's skyline ever since. Although lace making has stopped in Chard, it is still made at Perry Street in the south of the old parish.

John Stringfellow (1799-1883) worked in Chard as a maker of bobbins and carriages for the lace industry but also devoted time to the conquest of air. William Henson drew up the plans for the first steam powered airplane, developed it, patented it in his name and then handed the project over to Stringfellow who, in 1848, successfully completed the first powered flight. This amazing achievement took place in a disused lace factory in the town. A bronze model of that first plane stands in Fore Street and the museum has a, possibly unique, exhibition of flight before the coming of the petrol engine. He also invented and patented compact electric batteries used in early medical treatment. Stringfellow's house, in the High Street and his grave in the cemetery, are marked with plaques.

In common with the rest of the country, local war memorials tell of the loss of life in World War 1. The second World War affected local life even more directly. Once again, the coastline was defended and in addition an invasion stop line was constructed, running south to north on the very edge of the town. Nearby bomber aerodromes and armaments ensured Chard's total involvement.

Source: Devon Life Web Site

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The Windwhistle Hills are located in the Chaffcombe/Chillington area and has a well documented and intriguing history. Situated on the edge of one of the ancient Kingdoms of England, clouded in mystery, there is a history of odd occurrences in this area and certainly, the Hill is steeped in the traditional folklore of strange lights, visions and figures with ghostly highwaymen and galloping horses.

Strange sightings were first published in the late 17th Century in a book called Mirabilis Annus - Year of Wonders.  This catalogued a number of reports that were made during 1662 by people of Chard and Crewkerne.  

"On the 12th July in that year (1662), towards evening, two suns appeared in the sky at the same time.  Two days later, at about 10pm, three moons appeared concurrently.  Five days after that - on the 19th July - two suns were seen again.  On the following day, the 20th an even stranger sight was recorded.

About an hour after sunset, above the village of Chillington which lies under the northern slopes of Windwhistle, a long blue cloud billowed up from the west.  Through the swirling vapor a figure appeared - a man with a rod in his hand.  He was the size of a giant.  For a while he remained motionless and silent, then he vanished.  Soon after another giant appeared, this time a man on horseback. He was wearing a flat round bonnet and was carrying a sword in his hand.  beside him a long sheaf, shaped like a feather was hanging from his belt.  Soon he too vanished.  Then followed the most curious sight of all.  An entire battle was re-created in the clouds.  The whole sky was filled with giant, ghostly figures.  Several companies of horse and foot soldiers marched towards each other.  One army approached from the East, the other from the West.  Then they charged.

The soldiers were dressed in armor and armed with muskets, the horses were draped for battle.  After some while - the report was not specific - the ferocious battle went quiet. The figures faded and the clouds dispersed.  The skies became silent and clear."

During the 17th and 18th Centuries, the countryside around Windwhistle was a favorite spot for highwaymen.  The road that runs along the ridge, now the A30, was an important coaching route from London to the West Country. Travellers heading for Exeter and beyond, would journey up from Crewkerne to the summit and then turn left down the line of the old Roman road, Fosse Way.  This took them via Tatworth and Axminster to the south Devon coast road, thus avoiding the steep Snowden Hill outside Chard.  But there was no avoiding the long climb up to Windwhistle. The horses would be tiring and unable to outrun highwaymen hidden from sight amongst the beech trees.  The Windwhistle Inn was a headquarters for these highwaymen - which leads credence to ghostly sightings in and around the Inn.

"No Stranger with money," the story told "could enter the inn and come out alive."  The wells and caves that dot the hillside were used not only to hide their booty but also their victims!

Extract from:"the Book of the Axe"  By George P R Pulman 1875 
One ghost who has every right to feel aggrieved and unavenged was Simeon Stuckey. At 4 o'clock on the afternoon of Monday 9th August,1830, he set out from his home in Chard for the village of Over Stratton where he was superintending the building of a house. He broke his journey at the Windwhistle Inn and shared a pint of cider with the landlord, Lawrence Biss. Mr Stuckey completed his business and set off home again about ten o'clock. But not long after midnight, his horse Old Tom was found wandering on Chillington Common. His body was eventually discovered on August 31st by some laborers in a wheat field at Dinnington. He had been attacked and brutally murdered just a few yards away from the Inn. He was not robbed and his assailants were never caught.

"Of the extensive range of hills out of which the Cricket Brook rises, I may pause to remark that the turnpike-road, formed partly on the line of the Fosse-way, passes along the crest of the hill from St Reigne to Whitedown and leads from Crewkerne to Chard and Axminster.  It commands magnificent views, extending entirely across the island and also over a considerable portion of the County of Somerset northward. In clear weather, the English Channel at Seaton on the south and the Bristol Channel near  Burnham on the north, with the well-known Steep and Flat Holms, may be distinctly seen with the naked eye. In the rough winter nights such is the exposed and elevated situation that the traveler is pretty sure to receive a practical illustration of the propriety of its name and to wonder not at the local saying that "once upon a time the Devil lost his way upon Windwhistle," although he may derive consolation from the old-time belief that his Satanic Majesty is to this day immured in some long-disused and walled-up underground cellar at Windwhistle Inn, into which he had been enticed by a local White Witch, bargaining for the sale of his soul. A more likely - indeed a well authenticated - story is told of the sudden drying up, in a field at the back of the inn, of a well which for ages supplied the inhabitants of the locality with water.  On the day of the great earthquake at Lisbon (November 1, 1755) the spring ceased to flow and the well has ever since been dry - the water-supply to this day being exclusively obtained from the valley below. An old man named Chick once told me that his grandfather, a boy at the time, was present when the water went away and that he described it as "sinking through the bottom like cider through a tunnigar."

The whole of Somerset has a long and intriguing history but particularly the southern part of the county. Two thousand years before even the dark, undocumented years of the mystical Druids, other deeply spiritual men created the monoliths of Stonehenge.  Somerset forms part of Wessex, the ancient Kingdom ruled by Arthur from Camelot, (Tintagell Castle is just an hour away).  Throughout the Romans' occupation of their most westerly outpost of the Roman Empire who developed the straight roads slicing through the rich countryside. Witnessing the beacon on Windwhistle Ridge as one of hundreds lit across Britain to mark the arrival of the fleet of the great Spanish Armada of 1588. The huge blazing beacon would have received and passed on the news to neighboring beacons on The Cobb at Lyme Regis  and at Barrington Court. The bitter Civil Wars of the 17th Century which raged throughout England and then just as dreadful, the  hysteria and claims that sorcery, witchcraft, and sedition, was rife in the West Country, which had to be quelled by the Witchfinder General.

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During the Roman occupation of Britain, the area, that later became known as Devon, was the dominion of the Celtic tribe of the Dumnonii, the "Deep Valley Dwellers". It was a somewhat remote region of the province, less Romanized than others. An area of tin mining, unpopular with the rich Roman farmers who built elaborate villas in adjoining Somerset. The major Roman influence was from the army, whose base at Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter) grew into a major Roman city with all the grand buildings and public amenities associated with such. It is possible that, towards the end of the period of Roman rule in Britain, a leading family from amongst the Dumnonii, under one Caradoc, was already taking a part in the administration of the local 'civitas'. His descendants certainly claimed as much and, when in AD 410 the Roman army deserted the province, this group gathered enough support to make themselves Kings of Dumnonia. Their kingdom - which at its greatest extent covered modern Devon, Somerset and Cornwall - flourished for nearly five hundred years. However, Anglo-Saxon invasions were a constant threat as these people took over the old Celtic regions further east. There were many battles with the West Saxons who, by AD 658, had taken most of Somerset. They appear to have gained a strong foothold in Devon around the early 680s, when the Kings of Dumnonia probably withdrew to safer strongholds in Cornwall. They, however, still attempted to influence the area for the next hundred years and it Devon was not formally annexed by Wessex until AD 805. The 'pagus' of Dumnonia was called Dyfneint by the Saxons, an early form of the name which survives as Devon today. The area is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in AD 823 and it was soon given an Ealdorman to act on behalf of the king in the region. His men are recorded as having beaten off Viking Invasions in AD 851 & 878, though Exeter was successfully sacked in 1003. Devon was originally part of the Wessex Sees of Winchester and then Sherborne but, in AD 905, it was given its own Bishop, based at Bishop's Tawton, though quickly transferred to Crediton. Bishop Leofric moved the diocenal centre to Exeter shortly before the Conquest.

After King William the Conqueror's successful invasion of Britain, in 1066, he quickly recognized the importance of securing the West Country. He besieged Exeter for eighteen days before honourable terms were agreed for its surrender. Like the rest of the country, the rich Devon farmland was divided up amongst William's Norman Barons. Chief amongst these 'honours' were Plympton, Okehampton, Barnstaple, Harberton and Totnes. The descendants of these men became famous Devon families. Plympton was bestowed on the Redvers in the 12th century along with the Earldom of Devon. Thse later passed to the Courtenay family, who also possessed Okehampton. The Dukedom of Exeter was given to the Hollands in the 14th century, but they became extinct in the male line in the reign of Edward IV. The ancestors of Sir Walter Raleigh, who was born and grew up at East Budleigh, also for long held considerable estates in the county.

Devon had an independent sheriff, originally hereditary, but later appointed for one year at a time. In 1320, however, it was complained that the local hundreds were in the hands of great Lords who did not appoint enough bailiffs to keep the county in proper order. Devon returned two members of parliament in 1290, but this had increased to six (Barnstaple, Exeter, Plympton, Tavistock, Torrington & Totnes), only five years later. There were 26 members by 1832, when the Reform Act reduced them to 18. Subsequent bills have brought about further reductions. Devon miners always somewhat independent from the county administration and had their own 'Stannary Courts' for the regulation of mining affairs around the four stannary towns of Ashburton, Chagford, Plympton and Tavistock. The ancient parliament of the miners used to meet, in the open air, on Crocken Tor. The tin mines pre-date the Romans but, by the 14th century, there is additional mention of copper, lead, gold and silver. At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), the salt industry was important in the county, which also had at least 99 mills and 13 fisheries. Cloth has always been the chief manufacturing industry and a statute of Edward IV's reign allows for the production of distinctive types in particular areas of Devon. Cider making is mentioned by the 16th century and Lace making (now famous in Honiton) was undertaken at Colyton and Ottery St. Mary from 1680.

Many armed conflicts have impacted on Devon over the centuries. In 1140, during the Civil War of King Stephen's reign, Baldwin de Redvers held out against the King at his castles in Exeter and Plympton. Coastal attacks by the French were a frequent occurrence in the 14th and 15th centuries and there were often local skirmishes in the local area during the Wars of the Roses: the Earl of Devon being a Lancastrian and Lord Bonville, a Yorkist. After the Battle of Lose-Field in 1470, King Edward IV pursued his cousin, Warwick 'the Kingmaker' and his brother, the Duke of Clarence, as far as Exeter; where they met up with the latter's wife and fled to the Continent via Dartmouth. Richard III personally visited Devon to counteract rebellious rumblings and declared the Bishop and Dean of Exeter to be outlaws. The Royal pretender, Perkin Warbeck, besieged Exeter in 1497 and Henry VII later sat in judgment on the rebels there. More famous in the West, however, is the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. Following the Reformation of the Church of England by Henry VIII - unpopular in Devon - there were serious disturbances in the county upon the introduction, by his son, Edward VI, of the Protestant Prayer Book. A priest at Sampford Courtenay was persuaded to read the old Mass the very next day and the insubordination quickly spread. Protest turned to open revolt, joined by also the men of Cornwall. Exeter suffered an appalling siege but was eventually relieved by Lord Russell.

Devon mostly favoured Parliament at the outbreak of the English Civil War but a prevailing desire for peace brought about a treaty for the cessation of hostilities in both Devon 7 Cornwall in 1643. Skirmish did continue for a while, until the final capture of Dartmouth and Exeter in 1646. After the Monmouth Rebellion, Judge Jefferies held a 'Bloody Assize' at Exeter and, in 1688, the prince of Orange (later William III) began the Glorious Revolution by landing at Torbay and moving towards London through Forde and Exeter.

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Devon, Dorset, Somerset
Detailed Map
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Chard, Chaffcombe, Exeter, Newton Abbot, Buckfastleigh and Holbeton
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Exeter, Berry Pomeroy, Newton Abbot, Wolborough, Ipplepen & Totnes
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Chard and Chaffcombe
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Newton Abbott and Wolborough
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Berry Pomeroy and Ipplepen

Chaffcombe from the air

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April 20, 2020